Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No Stone Unturned: A family remembers a lost mom

It’s been an annual tradition for Patience Bushby for her entire life. The three-year-old daughter of missing Manitoba woman Claudette Osborne has attended rallies, vigils, concerts and memorial walks in remembrance of her mother and other missing and murdered women since she’s been born.

Sunday was no exception. Patience, along with her father Matt Bushby, and Osborne’s other children, four-year-old Iziah and six-year-old Layla were at the No Stone Unturned concert in honour of Osborne and other missing and murdered women.

The fair-haired little girl, who bares a striking resemblance to her mother, wore a shirt with a picture of Osborne’s face underneath the word “missing.” Though she’s never met her mom, Patience knows that the picture on her shirt is of “Mama June,” and she also knows that Mama June is lost.

“We come to keep Claudette’s memory alive and to keep raising awareness on the fact that she is still missing and that this has to stop happening to women,” said Bushby, who along with his other kids, were wearing the same shirt. “She is missed and still very much loved every day.”

Osborne’s entire family was joined by a few hundred other people at Memorial Park across from the Winnipeg Legislature to take in the all day venue of live entertainment and a feast of stew and bannok.

Also on hand for the concert were advocates from Walk 4 Justice, a non-profit group consisting of family members of some of Canada’s missing or murdered women. The group is walking across Canada to raise awareness about the hundreds of unsolved cases of missing and murdered women in Canada.

Bernadette Smith, event organizer and Osborne’s sister, said that putting on the concert was a way for the family to not only remember their sister and daughter, but to also raise awareness about her and the rest of Manitoba’s missing and murdered women.

Osborne was just 21-years-old when she went missing from Winnipeg’s North End in the early morning hours of July 24, 2008. Two weeks before her disappearance, the young mother gave birth to her fourth child, Patience Claudette Bushby.

Two days after their daughter was born, Bushby said that Child and Family Services apprehended the newborn and placed her into foster care until he could manage the resources to care for the infant as a single father. At the time the couple was still together, but Bushby was living with the kids in their home outside the city and Osborne was living in a rooming house in Winnipeg to comply with an order from Child and Family Services.

“All she ever wanted was a family,” Bushby said as he wiped away tears.

After losing custody of her daughter, Bushby said that Osborne was devastated. He describes that time as one of the lowest moments of her life. He said that she coped by turning to crack; a nasty drug habit that she’d kicked and been clean from for almost three years.

The last time Bushby spoke to Osborne, the young mother called to tell him that she was ready to get her life back on track. She told him that she didn’t want to lose him or the kids, and that she was entering rehab.

“She was going to go into treatment on the Monday,” he said.

However, in the early morning hours of Thursday, July 24, 2008, Osborne vanished from Selkirk Avenue and King Street in Winnipeg’s North End. Family and friends of the young mother are pleading that anyone with information about her disappearance contact the Missing Persons Unit at (204)-986-6250, or Winnipeg Crime Stoppers at (204)-786-8477 (TIPS).

“We need closure,” Bushby said. “My kids need closure.”


NOTE: A story I wrote for the Portage Daily Graphic

Monday, August 1, 2011

Missing Portage woman would have been 27-years-old

WINNIPEG - On July 28 Amber McFarland would have celebrated her birthday alongside her identical twin sister Ashley. The Portage woman, who vanished three years ago, on Oct. 18, would have been 27-years-old.

“It’s a tough day for her twin sister and we all just wanted to be there for her,” said Lori McFarland, Amber’s mom, who took the day off from work to be with her family.

Last year on Amber’s birthday, the McFarlands remembered their missing daughter and sister by plastering missing posters of her all over the city. These posters of a smiling Amber in the teal mock-neck shirt have become a fixture in many shop windows and bulletin boards around Portage.

This year, since most of the posters are still intact and in good condition, the McFarlands opted to spend the day together quietly, focusing on Amber’s twin sister Ashley, who has an especially difficult time when this day rolls around.

“Any family that’s lost a loved one, those days are memorable. You remember those birthdays and those special days and that person’s on your mind,” Lori said. “In our case we just don’t know what to think, like where she is or what happened to her.”

Lori said she believes that there are people in Portage who know something about her daughter’s disappearance. Her hope is that those people come forward with the information they have, even if they feel it isn’t important.

“They might not know everything, but they know enough to make a difference — any little detail could make a difference, and if they have some information, they should be coming forward with it,” she said.

“While she’s missing someone is going about their life scot-free, walking freely among us. Walking freely among girls from other families. It should still be very much on everybody’s mind that there is a perpetrator that’s just left to go about his business.”

Lori maintains that Amber’s case will be solved one day, she just hopes that it happens when the family is all around and together to support one another.

Vibrant and caring

“I just hope it’s not before both parents are dead and there’s not just one lone sibling to take the news,” she said. “You know, like many years from now.”

Amber, as her family remembers her, was a vibrant and caring woman with a free spirit, who spoke her mind and always stuck up for the downtrodden. She had a flare for fashion and design, and was dreamy about one day having a career as an interior designer.

At the time of her disappearance, Amber worked at Mark’s Work Wearhouse and was about to start a second part-time job at Tavern United, located in the Canad Inns Hotel on Saskatchewan Avenue.

“She showed a lot of potential, that girl. She had a big heart and a lot of ambition,” Lori said.

Amber was last seen leaving the Cat and the Fiddle Nite Club on Oct. 18, 2008. Surveillance video from the vendor at the Midtown Motor Inn showed Amber buying beer with two men, before reportedly leaving with an ex-boyfriend.

Car found in parking lot

Amber’s car was found in the Canad Inns parking lot, where she had left it the night before. Her purse and cellphone have never been located.

Anybody with any information about Amber McFarland’s disappearance are asked to call the Portage la Prairie RCMP at 204-857-4445 or Manitoba Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS

“I think she’s just waiting; she’s just waiting for somebody to find her, somebody to come forward. She’s just patiently waiting,” said Lori. “That’s what I feel.”

NOTE: A story I wrote for the Portage Daily Graphic.